"When you close read, you observe facts and details about the text. You may focus on a particular passage, or on the text as a whole. Your aim may be to notice all striking features of the text, including rhetorical features, structural elements, cultural references; or, your aim may be to notice only selected features of the text—for instance, oppositions and correspondences, or particular historical references. Either way, making these observations constitutes the first step in the process of close reading."
-- Harvard University Writing Center
Improving Your Close Reading
Using Art as an Entrance to Close Reading
One of the attributes of ELA is that, like the subject of Geometry, much of the characteristics and qualities of one work can be identified in others. Text should never be done in complete isolation. Doing so misses the opportunity for getting learners to that most fruitful of critical thinking activities--comparison. A single sentence or poem becomes a gateway to larger and more varied works.
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
-- Emily Dickinson
The Mother and Child
The two pieces of art to the right both follow what can be seen as a similar theme. The parent confronting the fear of life found in the confusion of death. Is there anything which evokes more sympathy than the struggle of a grieving parent? There is an unmistakable similarity between the two subjects of these art works. The posture of the dead child, limply laying across the embrace of the mothers, the very gestures of the hands are nearly identical--an upraised, palm up offering to a higher power. Yet, the contrast is also there, Mary’s shut lids against the open, lost eyes of the Guernica Madonna (highlighted in the left corner of the painting). There is an obvious rupture on her forehead, signifying the rupture that occurs as she searches for reason in the aftermath of her loss. The Theotokos’s eyes are sadly calm, perhaps reassured by faith, but Michelangelo has also captured a weariness in the tilt of the head and the roll of her shoulders. Her posture is not defiance but suggests a strength that her faith delivers.
All inspired by the simple though highly didactic quotation from J.K. Rowling, a quote originally used as a stand-alone thought provoker to begin to generate discussion at the start of a lesson.